Saturday, May 31, 2008

May summary

I've had a crazy week, and I haven't posted as much as I wanted to. In fact, I'm making myself post now to break the lull.

Here's what I read/finished this month:

Princess Academy (children's)
Dragonfly in Amber (audiobook)
Little Bitty Mousie (picture book)
American Gods
All Year Long (picture book)
Bark, George (picture book)
Look Out, Jack! The Giant Is Back! (picture book)
The Crocodile Blues (picture book, review to come)
Big Chickens Fly the Coop (picture book, review to come)
Love Marriage
Rules (children's, audiobook, review to come)
Three Cups of Tea (audiobook, review to come)


Once Upon a Time - 4 of 5 books read
A-Z Challenge (this month) - A title, P titleso, G author
Chunkster - 3 of 4 books read
PB&J - 6 of 52 books read

In other news, Houston Public Library re-opened their Central Branch today after being closed for renovations for 2 years. Jimmy and I headed downtown to take a look, and it's pretty nifty!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

It's Tuesday, where are you?

In addition to asking where we are in our reading this week, raidergirl3 asked where we get our books. I get books wherever I can find them! Currently, I'm on a book diet, which means I'm not buying any new books until I make a serious dent in my TBR stack (this does not apply to reference books or cookbooks, only to ones that I actually sit down to read cover to cover - I did buy a copy of Day Trips from Houston last week...). When I am buying books, I tend to pick them up at Borders or Half Price Books, occasionally Amazon. My workplace used to have quarterly used book sales (I work at a hospital, and they get lots of donated books), but they've stopped having them for the most part. I picked up a ton at those. And then, of course, there's the Texas Library Association conference, where I pick up lots of free Advanced Reader Copies, this year coming home with 45 new books! This was not typical - most times I've come home with between 10-20, I think. I
also have been lucky with the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program, scoring about 6 books there, and I've gotten a few on Bookmooch.

EDITED TO ADD: I can't believe I forgot to mention the library. I get an awful lot of books from the library, too. I am a huge supporter of libraries (being a librarian and all...)

As for where I am today. This morning I was in Maine being a preteen girl caught between worlds (in Rules by Cynthia Lord) and then I just started Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult and don't actually know where I am yet! Later I will be in a creepy fairytale forest in The Book of Lost Things and on an island in the middle of nowhere in Peter and the Starcatchers. It's awesome to be in new books this week!

Wanna play? Visit raidergirl3's blog at!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Love Marriage by V.V. Ganeshananthan

I received Love Marriage from the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program. The book started out strong, and I was sure I would give it at least 4 stars, even halfway through the book. But after finishing it, I think I have to give it 3.5 stars. Here's why.

Ganeshananthan has a beautiful writing style, very mature for such a young writer (by my calculations, she's about 28). But the story jumps around too much. First it was just that it would jump from the narrator's present or recent past, to her family's past (early 80s), telling a part of different family members' histories. It was easy to tell who was being talked about, as most sections started with the name of the family member being discussed in that section, but sometimes it was hard to remember whose side of the family the particular family member was on (the inclusion of a family tree at the beginning was helpful in this aspect). But later on the narrator would literally switch from one paragraph to the next (this happened in a couple of spots where, I guess, Yalini would introduce a part of her uncle's story, and the narration would continue as if he were telling the story). This caused confusion several times and made it hard for me to focus on the story.

What did I like about the book? I learned more about Sri Lanka than I have ever known. I knew nothing about the ethnic tensions there, and nothing about the Tamil Tigers. I learned a lot about the Hindu marriage and funeral rituals, which was very interesting. But overall, the story left me feeling unfulfilled. Would I recommend it? Yes, I would. I enjoyed the book and feel that it is a very good first book by Ganeshananthan.

Other reviews:
Aarti at Booklust

Three picture books

I've been woefully neglectful of the PB&J challenge, even though I've had 3 library books to read for 3 weeks now. I finally sat down to read them and review them before taking them back today. And, of course, I read them aloud, because, in my opinion, you can't really review a picture book without taking into account its read-aloud-ability.

All Year Long by Kathleen W. Deady was my choice for my "A" title. The text of this book is simple, but nice when read aloud. It would be a good choice for a storytime for young preschoolers with a "seasons" theme. This book is also a "circular story" ending at the spot where it began: the first line is "I know it's spring when robins sing, and tulips give a nod," and the last little bit goes, "But mama's cocoa keeps us warm from winter until spring; When, if I listen closely...I'll hear a robin sing." Very nice. But the best thing about this book is the illustrations. The illustrator, Linda Bronson, uses collages to illustrate the book, and they are just lovely.

Bark, George by Jules Feiffer was my choice for my "B" title. My intention was to choose newer books, but this one, published in 1999, jumped out at me. This book is ideal for very young preschoolers and older toddlers, especially ones who are very into learning animal sounds. George's mom is concerned because instead of "arf"ing like a dog, he makes various other animal sounds. This book is cute and has simple, but colorful illustrations.

I chose Look Out, Jack! The Giant Is Back! by Tom Birdseye to represent my "B" author. This book is a great read-aloud! The refrain:

Wham blam hickity hack!
I'm gonna get that boy named Jack!
He now be living, but soon he'll roast!
I'll spread him with mustard and eat him on toast!

will delight young listeners and have them chanting along. This would be a great addition to a fractured fairy tale-themed storytime. After Jack (of the beanstalk fame) has killed his giant, he thinks he's home free...until his brother comes to avenge his brother's death! This book is great fun! The illustrations are great, too. Here's the description from the book: "The artwork for this book was prepared on 100" cotton vellum. The artist tinted both the front and back surfaces of the paper with a variety of media, including woodless pencils, inks, egg tempera, colored pencils, water-soluble crayon, and oils. The art was then drymounted on bristol board."

Overall, these were 3 great selections. I'm not really sure how to go about choosing my picture books. Last time, I just browsed, but I like a little more structure than that. I'll have to see if I can find some good recommended reading lists. I really want to focus on new (within the past 3 years or so) books.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Weekly Geeks #4

Dewey's instructions for this week:
Choose a political or social issue that matters to you. Find several books addressing that issue; they don’t have to books you’ve read, just books you might like to read. Using images (of the book covers or whatever you feel illustrates your topic) present these books in your blog.

Here are my bookcovers:

I have been blessed with two beautiful, healthy children. We have taught them to question and not follow blindly. My daughter has always fit pretty well into that little box called public education. Well, until this year, anyway, when she was cursed with both a really bad teacher and a real jerk of a teacher - she has learned this year that her teacher isn't always right and sometimes she needs to question what she is asked/told to do (and her teacher hasn't appreciated this). My son has never fit into the public education box very well, and it caused much heartache early on.

All of these books reflect the idea that it is possible to raise well-adjusted children despite societal pressures and norms.

It's Tuesday, where are you?

Oh, oh, oh! I'm so excited! I'm in (or will be in) two *new* places today!

I started out this morning somewhere on the East Coast, I'm guessing, but I'm not exactly sure where I was. I was explaining the "rules" to my autistic brother and eagerly anticipating meeting my new neighbor, a girl just my age. (Rules by Cynthia Lord - the newest (and last for a while) audiobook I'm listening to with Laura)

In Three Cups of Tea I'm in Pakistan less than 30 km from the Afghan border on September 11, 2001.

At lunchtime I will be in Toronto, learning family history from my uncle, who is a Tamil Tiger. (Love Marriage by V.V. Ganeshananthan)

And at bedtime, I will be learning to fly with Peter in Peter and the Starcatchers.

Want to play along? Visit Raidergirl3's blog at and leave a comment telling where you are today!

Monday, May 19, 2008

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

I liked Stardust better. Ok. I've said it.

I feel like I was supposed to like American Gods more than I did. I did like it, but I don't necessarily feel like I grokked it in the same way my husband, among others, did. I think this is probably one I should re-read someday to pick up all the things I inevitably missed.

I appreciate American Gods as A Very Good Book. But it's not my preferred type of book. I don't even think I could say what my "preferred" type of book is...

In a more "reviewish" vein, I felt like the book started out strong and then just sort of...continued (for lack of a better word) for a while...then it picked up again about 3/4 of the way through. I couldn't put it down yesterday and was ticked that I fell asleep before finishing it last night. I liked the "aha" moments. There wasn't anything I *didn't* like about the book, but nothing that I *loved*, either.

What amazes me the most is just how versatile Neil Gaiman is as an author. He just blows me away, even with the books that aren't my "style" (whatever that is).

Other reviews:
Amanda (the librarian)
Melissa at Book Nut

This counts toward three challenges!

TBR Randomizer

My husband rocks! Here's the link to the randomizer he wrote for me yesterday. I swear, I find it very romantic that he did this for me. :-)

Just type in (or copy and paste) the books you want to choose from, 1 book per line, and click "Random Book," and it will choose one for you!

Everybody tell my husband what a great guy he is for enabling my book geekiness!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Popping in

Someone said on another blog recently, as one of his blogging tips, that he dislikes those "I'm too busy to blog" posts. Why not take the time you're using to say that to actually say something you've been meaning to blog about. This is a very good point!

So, instead of saying, "I'm just popping in to say I'm still alive," I'll find something interesting to say.

My great hubby is making me a cool tool so I can randomize my TBR list. I'm such a nerd and want to say, ok, I have all these books on my TBR pile - make a decision for me! So, my nerd partner is writing me a program to do it with. Anyone want me to share it once it's done?

I've been reading the same books for weeks, which sort of explains my serious lack of posts. I just haven't had anything "bookish" to say. I'm about 3/4 of the way through American Gods and will pick up my next LibraryThing Early Review book, Love Marriage, when I finish, hopefully in the next few days. Laura and I are minutes away from being done with The Amber Spyglass, and I think I have something short enough in my queue to listen to before school is over 2 weeks from now. I am *seriously* going to miss listening to books with her in the morning when she starts riding the bus to middle school next fall (well, really it will stop when school ends this year).

I do still have to make my Weekly Geeks post for this week, but I think I'll go read for now instead.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

It's Tuesday, where are you?

I laughed when I read raidergirl3's post this morning, because she said "I feel like I'm reading the same books this week that I was reading last week." Well, there's no *feeling* on my part. I am definitely still reading the same things as last week, just a bit further along.

This morning I was in Pakistan, trying to retrieve my building materials, so I could finally build the school in Korphe. (Three Cups of Tea)

And before that, I was with Lyra and Will in the Land of the Dead (yeah, I think I've been in the Land of the Dead for at least a week now! I guess that's what happens when you listen to 15-20 minutes per day). (The Amber Spyglass)

Later on today, I'll be in South Dakota with Shadow and Mr. Wednesday. (American Gods)

And tonight, I'll be aboard the Never Land learning about starcatchers, and the most unimagingative name for a substance I've ever read in a book, "starstuff." (Peter and the Starcatchers)
My husband hates this book, my daughter thinks it's stupid, and my son seems to like it, but I think he's afraid to admit it since his dad and sister are so vocal about their dislike. I, myself, am ambivalent, but as long as at least one child is enjoying it, I'll keep going. Especially, since the 1 child usually falls asleep before we finish reading anything, and this one has kept him awake.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Children's books addendum

I can't believe I forgot to mention how much I loved mystery books when I was a kid! The Three Investigators series rocked! Did anyone else read these? The main character was Jupiter Jones, and he and his friends solved mysteries. Their headquarters was disguised by a big junkpile, and I thought that was the coolest thing ever. I so wanted a clubhouse like that of my own. My best friend and I even decided we were amateur detectives, and we were always on the lookout for mysteries to solve, much to the amusement of my grandfather, who was a local judge.

And, even though I read voraciously for many years prior to discovering Anne of Green Gables, I think that was the first book I truly fell in love with.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Weekly Geeks Week 3

This week's Weekly Geeks assignment is to write about our favorite childhood books. So I'll muse a bit.

I don't remember learning to read. There are pictures of me with books as young as 2 or 3 years old, but I think I was probably between 3 and 4 when I really put the letters together to make words. As a very young child, my favorite books were a couple of fairy tale compilations and poetry books (which made their way back to me about a year and a half ago, much to my delight!). I would pore over them over and over again, so much so that the pictures are still a part of my earliest memories. I remember one picture of kids looking into a fire in a fireplace and seeing different things. And I remember this one picture with snow topping a fence, with birds in the picture. I have a distinct *taste* I associate with this picture, a sweet taste, that was obviously what I thought that snow would taste like. :-)

I discovered Judy Blume in about 3rd grade and read everything I could get my hands on, and I read them over and over and over again. The first one I ever read was Starring Sally J. Freedman, as Herself.

I went through a phase where I wanted to read every book in my school library and started with A. I think I probably only made it through a few books before giving up. I also went through a biography phase and a play phase - I loved reading the plays out loud to myself.

And of course there was Shel Silverstein. Loved Where the Sidewalk Ends, as did everyone else.

But most of my elementary school days were spent reading paperbacks of various types from the Scholastic or Troll book orders. It was so exciting when the books would come in! I really wish I had a list of all the books I read at that age. Oh, and I also used to love Dynamite magazine and, I think it was called Hot Dog magazine, both of which I would get through the book orders. Those were fun. And yes, I also went through a Mad Magazine and Cracked Magazine phase. I bought my daughter a Mad Magazine about a year ago, and she loved it, but it was nothing like I remembered...

I'm looking forward to reading what other people loved!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Weekly Geeks Week 2 Summary

Dewey wanted us to post a summary of our experience with adopting the policy of linking to other reviews in our review posts. I adopted the policy, but I've yet to have anyone ask me to link to a review. Then again, I've only posted one review, and I did so I was going to do it from now on, not retroactively. I think I'll revise that and say that I'll edit any review posts if you comment on them, even if they were months ago. Sometime soon I'll add a list in my sidebar to books I've reviewed, so you don't have to go hunting. Please be patient, though, as I don't have a lot of blogging time during the week.

I've seen a lot of participation this week, but only a couple of books I'd read. I lost one post - I thought I had kept the post unread but couldn't find it later. (If anyone's reviewed The Thirteenth Tale and mentioned it this week, let me know, because it was probably you!) One book I had read and thought I reviewed, but it turned out to only be a mention in a longer post. And then there was one that I had reviewed and linked to the other person's post and asked to be linked (which hasn't happened, but it was retroactive so possibly the person just hasn't caught up).

I think this is a great way to get involved in the larger book blogging community.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

It's Tuesday, where are you?

Every Tuesday, raidergirl3 at An Adventure in Reading (, asks "Where are you today?" in regards to what book you are reading. Because I can't comment at work, and by the time I get home, I've usually forgotten about this, I'm going to start posting these on my actual blog. I'll try to remember to comment on raidergirl3's post later in the day with a link to my answer, but no promises.

So, where am I today?

I've yet to pick up my book, but when I do in about an hour, I will be at the House on the Rock with Shadow and Mr. Wednesday, which is somewhere along the way from Chicago to Madison, I think. Strange things are happening in Shadow's life, after being released from prison, but he doesn't have a clue what's going on yet. Neither do I, for that matter! I'm reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman.

On my commute I will be in 2 places. First, I will be with Greg Mortensen while he figures out how to start a school on the edge of K2, the second highest peak in the world. This is in Three Cups of Tea. And then, after picking up my daughter, we will be with Lyra as she ventures into the Land of the Dead in The Subtle Knife. (I lied, I visited both of these places on my morning commute.)

And at bedtime tonight, we will be with Black Stache as he tries to take the treasure being carried on The Wasp in Peter and the Starcatchers.

Wanna play along? Visit raidergirl3's blog (link at the beginning of this post)!

Monday, May 5, 2008

What a way to start the week!

It was insane trying to get out of the house this morning. I guess Monday's always are. But then I realized I couldn't find my coffee cup (the travel kind) and think I left it at church yesterday. And *then* I realized I had forgotten my book! Oh no!!! I always read over lunch, unless I am knitting with friends, but only bring my knitting on those days that I know I'm going to be doing that. So I'm stuck at work today with nothing to read over lunch. This reminds me of last week's Booking Through Thursday question! I do have a Bookmarks magazine stuck in my bag, and I have a couple of puzzle books that I keep on hand for those really slow days. But I don't have my BOOK. Dammit.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Little Bitty Mousie by Jim Aylesworth

This is my first picture book review for Becky's PB&J Challenge. This week I will review two "A" books, one "A" title and one "A" author. Obviously, this is my author choice.

Little Bitty Mousie is an adorable "ABC" book that meets my first requirement for a great picture book - it is very fun to read aloud. The chorus, so to speak, throughout this book goes like this:

Tip-tip tippy tippy
Went her little mousie toes.
Sniff-sniff sniffy sniffy
Went her little mousie nose.

How can you not read that with a smile?

The illustration in this book, by Michael Hague, are also superb. Very vivid colors and a fine attention to detail. You want to reach out and bite into the apples on the first page!

I highly recommend this book for little ones in the preschool-to-kindergarten age range.

If anyone else has reviewed this book, leave a comment for me, and I'll edit this post to link to your review.

Weekly geeks week #2

This week, the Weekly Geeks challenge is to adopt Darla's policy of linking to other reviews whenever you post a new review on your blog. I think this is a great idea, as I always like to see what others have said about books I'm reading/have read. I generally don't read detailed reviews before I start a book, since I sort of like to go into a book blind. But about halfway through I start wondering what others thought of the book and take a look on Amazon or LibraryThing to at least see star ratings. Since I struggle to find blogging time as it is, I'm not going to make this retroactive, but starting today, whenever I post a book review, if you will comment on the post with a link to your review of the book, I'll add it to the post as soon as I get a chance.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon

I forgot to post about Outlander when I finished listening to it last fall, so I'll talk about it and the next in the series, Dragonfly in Amber, together. I finished listening to DiA today. These audiobooks are extremely long - the one I finished today was about 38 hours, and the next two in the series are both 40+hours. However, the narration by Davina Porter is extremely well-done.

If you don't know anything about the series, the premise is that a woman, Claire Beauchamp Randall, finds herself in 18th century Scotland after stumbling through standing stones near Inverness while on a vacation with her husband, Frank. That's the only fantasy feature of the book, though. Otherwise it's just a standard historical fiction; well, except that Claire has knowledge of the history of the time and knows things from the future that are helpful (such as an understanding of how disease is spread). There's also a good deal of romance when Claire finds love. I don't read romance anymore (can't say I never did...), but this is more than just a romance series.

I'm thoroughly enjoying listening to these books, but I have to take breaks between them, since they are so. friggin'. long.

I'm not sure what I'll listen to next. I have several Jodi Picoult books to choose from and a couple of other things of interest. I'm leaning towards Three Cups of Tea.

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

I'm not sure what I was expecting with Princess Academy, but this wasn't it. I think I expected something more fantastical, while really, this was more realistic fiction than fantasy. I mean, there were some magical-ish parts, but no fairies or witches or anything of that sort.

So, the plot. Miri is a girl who lives with her family on Mount Eskel, where her village makes its living by harvesting a rare type of stone. When the prince's priests divine that the next princess will come from Mount Eskel, a "princess academy" is created to make ladies of rough mountain girls. After a year, the prince will choose one girl to be his bride.

Some themes that are dealt with are prejudice (the "lowlanders," people not from the mountain, feel that the mountain dwellers are stupid and coarse), misfits (Miri's father doesn't allow her to work in the quarry with everyone else, and she must deal with her feelings of inadequacy), and young love.

One of the things I loved about this book is how reading is portrayed as so important. Once the village girls learn to read, all sorts of new opportunities open up for them.

I wouldn't count this as one of my favorite books, but it was still good. I give it 3.5 stars. It started out sort of slow, but I was really enjoying it by the end.

Challenge summary

I forgot to include a Challenge Summary in my summary for April. So here it is, as of May 2:

Once Upon a Time II: 3/5 (need to post a review of Princess Academy, which I finished over lunch)
Chunkster: 2/4
A to Z: 12/52
PB&J: 0/52
Soup's On: 1/6 (no reviews posted yet, though)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

One Word

I ran across this site, and while it's not about books, it's close.

A word will appear at the top of the screen and you have 60 seconds to write about it. You can then submit it, or, if you'd like, you can just skip that and see what others wrote. What a neat idea!

Booking Through Thursday

Quick! It's an emergency! Youjust got an urgent call about a family emergency and had to rush to theairport with barely time to grab your wallet and your passport. Butnow, you're stuck at the airport with nothing to read. What do you do??
And, no, you did NOT have timeto grab your bookbag, or the book next to your bed. You were . . .grocery shopping when you got the call and have nothing with you butyour wallet and your passport (which you fortuitously brought with youin case they asked for ID in the ethnic food aisle). This ishypothetical, remember….

Don't forget to leave a link to your actual response (so people don't have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!

My answer: (The formatting of this post may
be off, since I can't see the original formatting perfectly, thanks to
our filtering software. But I'm going to give it a shot anyway. I can
always come back and fix it this evening.)

This would certainly present a problem for me. However, luckily, I know that both of my local airports have shops that sell books, so, since I do have my wallet, I'm sure I can find something to pick up and read. If, however, this was the middle of night or something and the shops were closed, I suppose I would have to content myself with watching CNN on the conveniently placed TVs. Seems like they're always turned to CNN for some reason... As someone else mentioned, though, if this is truly an emergency, I probably couldn't concentrate on a book, so I would more likely pick up a puzzle book of some kind to work on. In fact, I have done just this when waiting to pick up my child when he was flying back from his grandparents' house and I, gasp, didn't have my book. When I'm picking up my kids or putting them on the plane to and from their grandparents' house, I usually only bring my wallet with me, because I hate going through security with a bunch of
stuff. So much easier to just stick my wallet, keys, and phone in the little basket.